Defra must take the lead on food waste, MPs have warned

MPs have urged the government to reverse millions of pounds of cuts made to industry body Wrap, amid a growing crisis over household food waste.

A report (PDF) by the environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) committee today slammed Defra for making the decision to wash its hands of the waste issue and leave it to business to take the lead, warning it had led to a slowdown in recycling that meant the UK faced missing EU taregts.

A year ago The Grocer revealed Defra had taken the axe to millions of pounds’ worth of projects aimed at cutting food waste, despite the cost of UK waste levels hitting £12.5bn in 2012. Defra said at the time that businesses such as retailers and suppliers were “better placed to act”.

Today’s report warned that the amount of waste thrown away every year in England alone stands at 177 million tonnes, of which 22.6 million tonnes was household waste.

“We recommend that rather than stepping back, Defra takes the lead role and responsibility for waste management policy as part of its departmental priority for the environment,” said the report.

The committee warned that the cuts, which resulted in a £10m reduction to Wrap’s budget, including £3.6m on projects specifically targeting food waste, had left the waste reduction programme rudderless.

“We are concerned that the 2020 EU target of 50% household recycling will not be met in England without clear government leadership,” added the report, which urged Defra to increase the funding for Wrap and Keep Britain Tidy, which suffered from even more swingeing cuts to its budget.